10 ways your job security could be threatened without you knowing

By Robert Half on 17 September 2022

While the Hong Kong unemployment rate dropped to 4.1%, job security is still an issue that many people believe could affect them at some point.

But how can someone tell if their job is on the line?

We can often sense when the axe is about to fall, by picking up on negative behaviour or body language from the boss or other people who are involved in the decision.

However, there are some more tangible factors that you should also keep an eye out for.

Here's a look at of some of the most common signs, trends and clues indicating that your job security may be at risk.

1. New management

A new management team is often the result of a decision to shake up the business in the hope of achieving better results. Your new manager may also want to clean house, and your job might be one of those on the chopping block.

Another potential red flag is the company bringing in external consultants who identify as “efficiency experts.”

2. Mergers and acquisitions

When tough market conditions or new opportunities compel a company to merge with a competitor, job losses often follow – starting with the employees whose job responsibilities overlap with those of employees at the other company.

While this is just intended to eliminate duplication, it can threaten the job security of employees all the way up to the executive team.

3. You're being handed fewer responsibilities

It's normal for people's workloads to ebb and flow in step with changes in business activity.

But if you're not being picked for plum new projects, or your responsibilities are being distributed to other people in the team for no clear reason, this could be a sign that management is gearing up to let you go.

4. They've hired someone with the same skills as you

Another person with your skills isn't always a bad thing, provided that they were hired to help relieve you of an excessive workload.

But if they make you feel invisible or you're being asked to hand off assignments to them, your future with the company could be under threat.

5. You're being asked lots of questions about your job

If managers, team leaders or HR staff are suddenly taking a lot of interest in what you do (outside of your standard performance review), your employer might be using that information to work out how to replace you.

While this isn't a guaranteed threat to job security, it could be a bad sign if you're not receiving any feedback or being told why the questions are important.

6. Important clients are jumping ship

If major clients are leaving the company's books and not being replaced, a workforce reduction could come next. Whether or not your position is at risk depends on two factors: how indispensable your skills are to the company overall, and how important they were to the client.

If the client specialised in accounting and your skillset is superforecasting, it may be time to reach out to recruiters.

7. Outsourcing and offshoring

Businesses need to stay competitive, and as part of this trend, globalisation has made it easier for companies to outsource their IT, administration and customer service needs to countries with lower wages.

If you're being asked to help train foreign workers with skillsets similar to yours, it could be part of a bigger plan to save money by moving your type of job offshore.

8. The robots are coming

Customer service representatives are at the most immediate risk, but as artificial intelligence improves, that could grow to include finance, accounting, and even some creative professions.

Keep this in mind if your employer is investing in new technologies that they say are simply meant to make your job easier.

9. The company won't pay for experience

If you see a lot of candidates with little or no industry experience being interviewed for jobs in your department, that could signal that the company is aiming to cut payroll costs by replacing experienced employees with entry-level ones.

Many companies take on new graduates each year, but when it happens without the announcement of new projects or staff training, the job security of existing employees may be at risk.

10. Other companies in your industry are experiencing layoffs

If friends who have equivalent jobs in the same or a related industry begin to suffer layoffs, this could be a barometer for what's happening in the industry as a whole.

This was seen in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, which sent shockwaves through the IT sector according to Business Insider, that saw even established enterprises losing market value and shedding workers.

How important is your job security to you?

Job security is vital to our self-confidence and sense of stability. However, it's worth remembering that there are lots of factors – not always related to employee performance – that can affect job security.

The key is to stay professional, plan ahead, and stay aware of trends in your industry that could lead to job losses.

If you need to quit your job to ensure that your career does not experience any setbacks, this may be a wise tactic as long as you weigh up all the factors that may affect this decision.

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